Sunday, March 04, 2012

Michigan Academy 2012

Michigan Academy continues to be one of my favorite little conferences, where I get to visit a Michigan college or university, and share with my library colleagues across the state. I like to hear what librarians across the state are doing, I always learn something new, get to share something about what I am doing, and it is just fun to hang out. The last presentation of the day was full of cataloging humor that only a room of librarians could appreciate.

I was reminded that four years ago I had predicted that more librarians would be attending Michigan Academy as travel funding decreases, since it is an inexpensive, close to home conference. They had so many paper proposals submitted, that they ran two parallel sessions all day long, so this is only reflecting half the presentations in the Library and Information Science section of Michigan Academy

The most useful presentation to me was from Mariella Gunn of Oakland University, who took a new look at guides we are creating. Now that we have LibGuides and other ways of easily creating guides, we are creating a lot of them, but are we usability testing them? Mariella proposed that we make sure we are naming them according to departments and programs students find in the course catalogs, and to create class guides whenever possible. With the new course management systems we can have them automatically link to either the class guide, or the next most appropriate departmental or program guide. She suggested that we organize them by assignment parts, not resource types, as we think of them. There were more things to think about, so I hope to get a copy of her presentation.

Abby Bedford from Grand Valley continued the theme with a presentation on how to best use slide decks (a generic term for PowerPoints) and screencasts at point of need to explain things to students. Good ideas.

I always find Elizabeth Bucchiarelli (EMU) has something interesting to say, and this time she had explored gray literature, as it is important for her health sciences patrons.  She did a nice job of defining it, telling us the advantages and disadvantages, where to find it, etc.

One of the participants in the University Library Associates program at U of M, explained that the students in the School of Information apply to be ULAs (associates) at the library, so they are more employees than interns working on special projects and get a sense of the type of work they want to do when they graduate.

Karen Liston from Wayne State talked about involving "senior librarians strategically." She had some good ideas about mentoring, and making sure everyone has equal access to opportunities, but I feel we are trying our own approach - preparing ourselves to be 21st century librarians.

Michael McDonnel presented on a system he uses to follow the government documents we are being offered at Western - I actually understand his job just a bit better after this. His presentation went well with Rhonda Fowler's presentation about moving towards more electronic government documents at Eastern Michigan. I think we are moving in that direction all the time, not sure what Michael makes sure we still get in print.

Ed Eckel presented on this analysis of engineering masters theses and dissertations. I hadn't heard recently how far he has gotten with his research - very interesting and stimulated a good conversation in the group.

Among the interesting and somewhat unusual presentations was the one on zines at Michigan State by Joshua Barton - sure I had heard of zines, but never really had them defined nor understood their cultural value. Later in the day Jennie Russell told us about the Cartoon Museum and its library in London, England. Then KT Lowe, recent grad of UofM had an interesting take on the purpose of museums and how they need to reach out to people of today. I must still be in that small sliver of people to whom museum exhibits talk to. The last presentation was from Steven Putt of Calvin College on how "veganism" shows up in the Library of Congress Subject Headings. Believe it or not, it was not only informative, but also funny.

I talked about my progress with my Baltic Research Handbook.  It was very useful for me to have to start pulling what I have seen so far together and start formulating my research questions.

On the lunch break I  went to visit the Alma College Library - so I wrote that up in the next post.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Alma College Library

When I attend Michigan Academy, I take the opportunity to visit the local academic library, and find that I am one of the few who does, though we have a good number of librarians at these conferences. I enjoy getting private tours, and this time the director of the Alma College Library - Carol Zeile, a 1978 grad of Western's Library School  - took me around. 

The first thing I noticed, even before I entered the library, was the cafe. It was prominently advertised on the outside of the building, and was on the main floor of the library. It was added as part of the most recent renovation about 5 years ago. It is a totally student run business, not part of dining or catering services. A student organization plans everything and hires students to work there. They are open 8-12 and 6-12 most days, serving coffee, tea, soda, cookies, scones and candy.

Alma College serves a population of 1400 students, and their library has 11 - note 11!!! - group study rooms of varying sizes, only two need to be reserved. There are also 200 carrels that students can reserve for the semester and when they check out books, they can leave them in the carrel. The carrels are open, like ours, with no lockable area. Each carrel has the student's name on it, and only a few had books on them.

 There are 10 computers on the main floor that are open to the public in the mornings. At a certain time, when the library gets busier with students, the computers need a local campus login. There is a computer lab available for student use with login and there were other computers elsewhere, that I did not note. There is a classroom with a cart of laptops that is the preferred instruction room. The computer lab may be used for instruction, but is second choice.

The Writing Center run by the English department is located in the library with an office and a nook on the first floor with tables and chairs to help students. The career advising center is also located in the library on the lower level.

I did not look at their collections closely, just noted that bound periodicals are on the lower level in compact shelving, the main floor contains the reference collection, and the top floor hold the book collection. There is a three floor stack area with low ceilings like we have in North Hall, but nicely carpeted and with good lighting that can be switched on and off for each aisle.

There seemed to be plenty of study areas for individuals and groups, with numerous cozy chair areas, nooks for group or quiet work. The central staircase with couches (and the evolving mobile of a 1000 cranes made by students seen above) is very popular. They are thinking of expanding, as they do not have a real quiet study area, and students are clamoring for MORE group study rooms!